A new San Francisco-based company called Otto has been formed with the goal of turning commercial trucks into self-driving freight haulers, according to the Verge.
The group of 40 owners includes former Google Maps lead Lior Ron and Anthony Levandowski of Google's self-driving car team.
Otto won’t build its own trucks but is hoping to make hardware kits for existing truck models that would either be installed by service centers, or possibly at the factory under manufacturer partnerships. Otto is testing with the Volvo VNL 780 and plans to work with Class 8 trucks.
Otto isn't alone in trying to automate big rigs. Daimler and Volvo Trucks have both demonstrated self-driving systems in recent months, but Levandowski doesn't sound worried about those efforts. "I think the trucking folks are doing a great job, and eventually they would probably solve the problem. But a company that is used to building trucks is not well structured to solve a technology problem," he says. "I'm not trying to dismiss them in any way, I think it's fantastic what they're doing. But I think it's a different timeframe and objectives as to what we're trying to solve and what they're trying to solve."
He also notes that manufacturers' systems would require all-new trucks, unlike Otto, which could be retrofitted. "If you need to replace all of your trucks to get the technology on it, the rate of penetration you'll be able to have is pretty low. Trucks last ten years, a million miles."
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